Skyrocketing Youngstown water bill prompts questions

Youngstown water bill

 

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) — A water bill eight times higher this month compared to recent months had one Youngstown Water customer asking questions.

Bill Johnson of Austintown said his water bill is rarely more than $40, but he received a bill on Wednesday for $177.

“About 2, the email came from the Youngstown Water Department,” Johnson said. “I always open the bill and check the account.”

When he saw the large amount on his bill, he immediately called the water department.

Johnson said he waited at least 15 minutes before his call was answered. He said the water department employee started going over possible scenarios.

“I am the landlord there. There is no pools. I make sure there are no leaks,” Johnson said.

At Wednesday night’s Youngstown City Council meeting, our reporter asked water commissioner Harry Johnson what could have caused the bill to spike.

“Sometimes when we get an actual read, sometimes we underestimate, sometimes we overestimate. We of course adjust the customer’s bill accordingly,” Harry Johnson said.

Many times, the city estimates the bill because of limited access to the water meter, possibly making a customer’s bill wrong for months. In Bill Johnson’s case, he did not provide us with his prior bills, so we do not know how many months of estimated bills he had.

“Three, four, five, six months because we can’t get an actual read,” Harry Johnson said.

Right now the city is in the process of replacing all water meters with remote meters. Only 10 percent of current customers have them.

The cost to replace the water meters will cost the city around $10 million. The last time the meters were replaced was in 1988.

Harry Johnson said the new system will eliminate estimated reads, which is something Bill Johnson hopes fixes the problem.

“I am probably not the only one who got this kind of bill,” Bill Johnson said.

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